St. John's Coach Joe Lapchick was sure that his team could beat Villanova—even after the Wildcats had whomped Duquesne 82-63 in Philadelphia. But for a few nervous minutes Lapchick fretted and fumed on the bench in New York's Madison Square Garden. Villanova's zone defense surrounded 6-foot-10 LeRoy Ellis in the pivot; Hubie White, a sinewy 6-foot-4 jumping jack, flipped in seven points and the visitors led 14-6. Then Lapchick put in Willie Hall to play White, and his disposition improved. Hall took care of White on defense, Kevin Loughery spread the Cats with jumpers from the sides, and Ellis, with more room to maneuver, began to rebound and hit with tap-ins and short hooks. When it was all over, Ellis had 32 points and 20 rebounds, the ubiquitous Hall had limited White to only 12 more points and St. John's had won 79-66. Two nights later the Redmen let down a bit, but still managed to beat stubborn Niagara 67-66 in double overtime.
NYU's rough spots were still showing against smaller Temple but playmaker Mark Reiner developed a hot hand and bailed out the somewhat wilted Violets. Reiner tossed in a dozen points, mostly from far out, in the last 6½ minutes to force a 67-67 tie, added eight more in overtime to finish with 35, and NYU won 78-73. The Violets were smoother against Army and beat the Cadets 69-61.
With tournament time near. Providence, Holy Cross and Navy were straining to make the selectors sit up and take notice. The Friars, with big Jim Hadnot operating from a single post, spurted past Le Moyne (N.Y.) 53-46, Boston College 70-68 and Assumption 56-42. They have now won 10 in a row. Holy Cross trounced Seton Hall 111-84 as Jack Foley outshot Nick Werkman 38 points to 26, then beat Syracuse 76-67. Navy whipped Pennsylvania Military College 76-40 and then William & Mary 71-59 for its seventh straight. Yale and Cornell were still running neck and neck in the Ivy League. Yale beat Harvard 77-68 and Dartmouth 85-72; Cornell edged Princeton 45-43 and Penn 60-50. The top three:
1. ST. JOHN'S (15-4)
2. VILLANOVA (16-5)
3. DUQUESNE (16-3)
Duke found it couldn't get along without Art Heyman and suddenly the Atlantic Coast race was alive again. Wake Forest and North Carolina State were closing in on the apprehensive Blue Devils. While Heyman nursed a sprained ankle, N.C. State harassed the other Dukes with a tenacious defense, hit 11 of its first 17 shots, and sent the league leaders tumbling 71-55. Heyman recovered and, significantly, so did Duke. Heyman scored 25 points and the Blue Devils trounced Virginia 101-75.
Meanwhile, Wake Forest, making the most of Len Chappell's usual stretch push, beat fading North Carolina 87-80. The Tar Heels couldn't get around Chappell in the corner of the Deacons' 1-3-1 zone and they couldn't stop the big fellow from pushing in 36 points and snaring 14 rebounds. Marveled Carolina Coach Dean Smith: "When he gets underneath, he just goes home. Nobody can stop him."
Although Mississippi State was still winning in the SEC, Coach Babe McCarthy was plainly worried about the future. His Bulldogs got by Tulane 70-59 and Tennessee 91-67 but they had to face Kentucky Monday in Lexington, where they hadn't beaten the Wildcats in 60 years. It didn't help McCarthy's peace of mind, either, when Adolph Rupp turned his Wildcats loose in a fast break and they ran over Mississippi 83-60 for their 16th straight (see page 52).
It was all over in the Southern Conference. West Virginia turned back George Washington 87-62 to clinch the regular-season title, but the Mountaineers will have to do it all over again in the conference tournament at Richmond March 1-3 to earn an NCAA invitation. Western Kentucky's Ed Diddle got a hand from son Ed Jr., whose Middle Tennessee team upset Morehead 72-69 to help keep his pappy's Hilltoppers in the Ohio Valley lead. Independent Louisville thought it had a big one in the bag, but Bradley's Chet Walker, who had already shot in 38 points, put in a rebound in the last second and the Cardinals lost 80-79 before 17,347 at Freedom Hall. The top three:
1. KENTUCKY (17-1)
2. MISSISSIPPI STATE (18-1)
3. DUKE (15-3)
Big Ten coaches were used to Ohio State's magnificence but they still couldn't help marveling at the Buckeyes. OSU all but ran Iowa off the floor while winning 89-63. Then Jerry Lucas demonstrated his deadly efficiency against Minnesota. He made 14 out of 15 from the floor, wound up with 34 points, and the Buckeyes won easily 91-66. Moaned Minnesota's Coach Johnny Kundla: "It's awful how powerful OSU is. I honestly think we played a pretty good game—but they make you look just terrible."
Just to add to Ohio State's pleasure, ninth-place Michigan let the air out of second-place Wisconsin's bubble. The Wolverines caught the Badgers with their defenses lagging at Madison and upset them 81-74. Wisconsin came back to beat Michigan State 77-72, but the Badgers will have to hustle to hold off Illinois for second place. The Illini won twice, over Minnesota 89-80 and Iowa 91-81. One other Big Ten statistic: Purdue's Terry Dischinger scored 47 points as the Boilermakers beat Indiana 105-93.
The fight was strictly between Bradley and Cincinnati in the Missouri Valley after St. Louis knocked Wichita out of the race 86-68. Earlier, the Billikens, with their darting, clawing karate-type defense, had Cincinnati trembling before the Bearcats finally won 54-48. Meanwhile, Bradley stayed on top with a 91-61 victory over North Texas State. But the Braves still have to beat Cincinnati—and St. Louis—on the road, to win the title.
In the Big Eight it was Colorado and Kansas State against the field. The Buffs knocked over Oklahoma 54-40 and Nebraska 74-63 while K-State, taking its cue from 6-foot-8 Mike Wroblewski's 46 points, punished old rival Kansas 91-72, then used its tight defense to turn back Missouri 65-59. MidAmerican leader Bowling Green was stopped by Toledo 70-59 after 11 straight. Among the independents, Loyola (15-2) whipped Western Michigan 102-79; Creighton (14-4) beat Marquette 79-72 in overtime and Notre Dame 74-71 to enhance their tournament chances. The top three:
1. OHIO STATE (18-0)
2. CINCINNATI (19-2)
3. BRADLEY (16-3)
Wonders never cease in the hurly-burly Southwest Conference. The latest surprise was perpetrated by TCU. The seventh-place Frogs somehow had first-place Texas Tech wrapped up in a 63-63 tie with two seconds to go at Lubbock. Then Phil Reynolds took a pass from David Warnell, dribbled twice, faked and fired in the shot that beat Tech 65-63—all in two seconds! Before the week ended, last-place Baylor had surprised Arkansas 76-60; SMU beat Texas 84-82 (in overtime) and Texas A&M 59-54, and Tech came back to trim Baylor 81-62 and hold the conference lead.
Defense was hardly a consideration as Arizona State outshot West Texas State 107-103 to win the Border title, but it was very much in evidence as Houston defeated Florida State 84-76 and Miami (Fla.) 80-69. However, even the Cougars joined the free-shooters in a 105-75 romp over North Texas State. The top three:
1. ARIZONA STATE (17-3)
2. HOUSTON (18-4)
3. TEXAS TECH (12-5)
For a while ambitious Stanford entertained visions of Big Five eminence. Six-foot-8 John Windsor, a catlike 225-pounder, stalled USC's fast break by controlling the offensive boards and, when Center Tom Dose got into foul trouble, he helped out in the pivot along with Mike Ledgerwood. Windsor got 27 points and Stanford beat USC 67-56. But UCLA was too much for the Indians. They couldn't stop Johnny Green's long-distance bombing (for 32 points), Fred Slaughter's rebounding or Walt Hazzard's playmaking, and the league-leading Bruins won easily 82-64.
St. Mary's was the latest leader in the West Coast AC. The Gaels surprised Loyola 72-71 on Steve Gray's last-second shot and then scored a solid 74-60 win over San Francisco. Up north, usually meticulous Oregon State bumbled frequently but Jay Carty pumped in 26 points to lead the Beavers safely past Portland 75-64. Utah's Billy McGill, prodded by appreciative hometown fans, gave Montana Coach Frosty Cox his biggest headache of a dismal season: 53 points, for a new Skyline record, as the Utes clobbered Montana 97-61. Colorado State U. and Utah State, more concerned with their fight for a place in the NCAA tournament, continued to win. The Rams held off pesky Denver 77-67; the Aggies beat BYU 80-70. The top three:
1. OREGON STATE (17-1)
2. UTAH (17-3)
3. UCLA (11-7)
LeROY ELLIS, St. John's agile center, moves in at top speed to scoop ball out of reach of Villanova's tough Hubie White in 79-66 victory.